Seals, sea lions, kelp, and coral keep company with otters, jellyfish, sharks, a spider crab, and a giant octopus at the Aquarium of the Pacific, which opened in Long Beach, CA, in June. These creatures of the sea are among the 10,000 ocean animals representing 550 different species in this $117-million-dollar project, designed by Esherick Homsey Dodge and Davis (EHDD) of San Francisco in a joint venture with the Los Angeles office of Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum (HOK). Interior and exterior architectural lighting, as well as exhibit lighting, for the 156,735-sq.-ft. (14,106 sq. m) facility has been created by principal designer Pat Gallegos and project manager Karl Haas, both of Gallegos Lighting Design in Northridge, CA.
The contemporary steel-and-glass shell of the building is capped with an undulating metal roof structure designed like three cascading waves. The lowest of the three waves dips to just 10' (3m) over the ticket booth at the front of the building. Gallegos added movement to the exterior, where 1,000W Altman exterior PARs with Special FX Lighting blue-green glass filters are mounted behind parapets as an uplighting system. Each fixture is on a separate dimmer with the entire system programmed to give the illusion of moving light. "It's a slow and elegant animation of the wave form, which appears to move from one side of the building to the other," he says.
Hydrel HQI wallwashers with blue filters light the lower portions of the exterior, where an architectural interpretation of the prow of a ship pierces the wall of the aquarium. The design concept was to make the building seem as much a part of the ocean as possible, which explains the cascading roof line. Gallegos also used cast-aluminum outdoor fixtures by Northstar with PAR-64-sized compact source iodide (CSI) lamps, which he describes as "punchy." These are used with dichroic blue filters to light the upper portions of the building, adding depth and detail to pick up the multiple layers of the structure's surfaces. Decorative lampposts by Louis Poulsen light the approach to the aquarium, which sits right on the Long Beach waterfront and is the cornerstone of the city's major Queensway Bay urban development project.
The ceiling of the spacious lobby echoes the shape of the roof with the wave form recreated in a series of aluminum "fins" or louvered slats. Gallegos programmed Rambusch indirect halogen uplights to give the ceiling a shimmer effect and add the impression of being underwater. "You enter the wave, literally and figuratively, when you enter the building," Gallegos explains. "The lobby lighting is designed to pick up the architectural layering of the building." A mix of Altman PARs and ETC Source Four PARs accent the ceiling and walls and add texture to a large suspended whale sculpture made by The Larson Company in Tucson, AZ, which also created various faux rock areas and artificial coral for some of the exhibits. A limited number of downlights can be used for special events.
The exhibition areas tell the story of the various Pacific Ocean marine systems that stretch from warm tropical waters in the South to the icy reaches of the North. There are three principal exhibit paths: the Southern California/Baja gallery, the Northern Pacific gallery; and the Tropical Pacific gallery. Each of these has a preview tank in the main lobby showcasing marine life indigenous to the area.
In the exhibit areas, designed by Joseph A. Wetzel Associates of Boston, visitors walk along pathways that lead under and around the marine life tanks. In the Southern California area, Gallegos creates the feeling of a coastal environment, using a system of wallwashers with deep blue-green color for a low-visibility ocean look to create the look of water on the floor. ETC Source Four ellipsoidals with GAMproducts rotators add a sense of light filtering in through a canopy of kelp, while diffusion fog gives a presence to the light.
For the illumination in the display tanks, Gallegos used Kim wet location fixtures with 175W and 250W metal-halide lamps. "We used a 5500K lamp to get as close to white light as possible for a crisp sunlight look," says Gallegos. "We also worked closely with the head curator of the aquarium to determine the lighting needs for the fish in each tank." Concerns about the fish even included the proper light for their mating rituals. "The metal halides are really the workhorse lights here," Gallegos notes. "It's more a question of the position of the beam to light the habitats in a certain way." The windows of the tanks are acrylic panels which have the same optical qualities as water and almost make it look like there is no glass separating visitors from the fish.
In the tank featuring families of jellyfish, low-wattage metal-halide fixtures by Lumiere provide uplight through small windows on the bottom of the tank. "The jellyfish are translucent, and it's romantic and mesmerizing to see them floating in and out of the pools of light," Gallegos points out. In a shark tank, Lumenyte fiber optics backlight the egg cases and illuminate baby sharks as they hatch.
Moving into the Northern Pacific exhibit area, the atmosphere simulates the cold, wet environment one might find along the rocky coasts of Alaska and the Bering Strait. A mechanical surge system audibly moves the water, and a fog system creates a canopy to hide the ceiling. Gallegos lit the fog with fluorescent tubes in color sleeves to give it depth. A blue-gray rear projection material by Gerriets was used to soften the light even more, and enhance the sense of clouds overhead. Above the walkway, black track lighting has Times Square theatrical-style fixtures fitted with blue glass filters.
An area with diving birds needs light with specific levels to indicate various times of day, from morning through the brightest part, and on to dusk and dark. The lights here are on a relay system to vary them accordingly. All of the lighting in the aquarium is controlled by a Strand Lighting Premiere Network Manager Processor located in the computer control room, programmed to run on an astronomical time clock, with special lighting preprogrammed for special events. Three racks of Strand CD80 dimmers are located in three electrical rooms situated throughout the building, and numerous remote jacks allow consoles to be plugged in for programming.
The largest, brightest display tank is located in the tropical exhibit area. This is a two-story tank full of colorful fish, divided by walls of coral to add interest. Visitors can only see into the tank from one level, so as to look up and down as if in the depths of the ocean; 1,000W metal-halide light sources accent the electric yellows and neon blues of the fish.
In a tank where live coral is grown, a high light level was needed. Here Gallegos used 12 large 1,000W stadium-style floodlights mounted on a horizontal grid located right over the tank. The grid can be lifted out of the way for access by the curators or lowered on a pulley system for maximum light exposure. "We used 5500K color temperature, so it's like the sun, yet artificial, to help the coral grow," says Gallegos, who once again worked with the curators to ensure the lighting meshed with the needs of the marine life.
Some of the exhibits have indoor/outdoor areas with sunlight filtering in. The sea lions, for example, can go out onto a rocky area where Sterner metal-halide floods create artificial moonlight at night. An outdoor Kid's Cove, or play area, has a sculpture of whale bones accented with metal-halide outdoor lights. There are also five banks of four Sterner metal halides each along the outside of the building to light the outdoor mammal area.
Gallegos worked with the architects and exhibit designers for three years to ensure that his lighting was a success. "We had a unified story to tell and worked from concept to opening day to achieve that and create a high-quality experience," he says. The public response to the new aquarium has been extremely positive, with the reported wait to get in as long as two hours over the summer. "The lighting gives a strong sense of where you are in this underwater world."
Selected Lighting Equipment
Exhibit Lighting (18) ETC Source Four ellipsoidals (41) ETC Source Four ellipsoidals (41) GAM Products gobo rotators (114) Kim metal-halide 175W and 250W tank accents (33) Lithonia low-voltage accents (307) Lithonia wet fluorescents (26) Lithonia open striplights (166) LSI track lights (69) Lumiere accents (1) Lumenyte fiber-optic illuminator (39) Orgatech Omegalux wallwashers (2) Reel EFX Diffusion hazers (10) US Architectural floods (58) Spero 1,000W tank floods
Interior Architectural (22) Altman PAR accents (58) ETC Source Four PARs (43) Exit lights (53) Hydrel step lights (58) Louis Poulsen sconces and pendants (70) Litecontrol wallwashers (116) Lithonia downlights (4) Lithonia incandescent downlights (242) Lithonia louvered fluorescents (16) Lithonia troffer fluorescents (51) Peerless indirect fluorescents (30) Rambusch indirect uplights
Exterior Architectural (27) Altman outdoor PAR-64 accents (44) Hydrel HQI wallwashers (4) Kim exterior floodlights (9) Kim MR-16 uplights (9) Lithonia metal-halide floodlights (14) Louis Poulsen lampposts (19) Lumiere landscape floods (51) McPhilben area lights (4) Continuous blue neon strips (3) Northstar CSI accents (30) Outdoor dimmable fluorescent washers (55) Sterner metal-halide floodlights (41) US Architectural bollards
Control (1) Strand Lighting Premiere Network Manager Processor (3) Strand CD80 dimmer racks